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Organizations alarmed at U.S. Capitol mob attack

International organizations reacted with shock and sadness at the state of American democracy after pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol.

The U.S. Capitol in Washington
The U.S. Capitol in Washington (AN/J. Heilprin)

WASHINGTON (AN) — International organizations and leaders reacted with shock and sadness at the state of American democracy after pro-Trump insurrectionists violently stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday and delayed Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden's election victory.

The Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union, a global organization of national parliaments, said it strongly condemned the violent mob attack that overwhelmed police and drove members of Congress from their chambers in Washington as they were counting and discussing the electoral votes.

IPU's president, Duarte Pacheco, a member of Portugal's parliament since 1991, called the mob attack an "attempt to violate the constitutional and democratic order" of the United States; IPU's secretary general, Martin Chungong, a former member of Cameroon's parliament, said he was "deeply dismayed at the news about the violence in U.S. Congress. This is an unacceptable and disgraceful assault on democracy and its representatives.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she believes in the strength of U.S. institutions and democracy. "Peaceful transition of power is at the core," von der Leyen tweeted. "Joe Biden won the election. I look forward to working with him as the next president of the U.S.A."

Thousands of Trump's angry supporters descended on Washington, D.C. and the Capitol grounds, incited to violence by the president's refusal to accept his election defeat and conservative media outlets that have overwhelmingly repeated his false claims of vote-rigging and election fraud. Members of Congress, angered and upset at the violent attack with ransacking of their federal offices, reassembled hours later to affirm Biden’s victory early Thursday morning.

Five deaths were confirmed, authorities said, including a male Capitol Police officer injured while "physically engaging" with pro-Trump rioters, a female Air Force veteran shot by the Capitol Police while wearing a Trump flag tied around her waist, and three others who suffered unspecified medical emergencies.

"The integrity of this bastion of democracy and of the representatives of the people of the United States must be respected," IPU said. The mob invaded the Capitol in an attempt at blocking Congress from certifying Biden’s Electoral College victory in the November 3 election, which President Donald Trump and millions of his followers say they believe was stolen — despite no evidence to support their claims.

It was essentially a failed coup attempt, egged on by Trump who told them at a "Save America Rally" earlier in the day that they could "stop the steal" if they "walk down to the Capitol" and strongly confront their "senators and congressmen and women ... because you will never take back our country with weakness.”

Trump has presented no evidence to justify overturning the election, and his baseless claims have been rebuked by numerous authorities including Republicans and judges he appointed to the bench. Biden won by a margin of 51.4% and 81.2 million votes to Trump's 46.9% and 74.2 million votes.

Biden picked up 306 electoral votes; Trump won 232. State officials reported finding only a small number of ballot complaints worth investigating, while Chris Krebs, who directed the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said the election was "the most secure in American history."

Sen. Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, drew enthusiastic applause in Congress when he solemnly urged politicians to respect citizens and voters by telling them the truth. “We gather due to a selfish man’s injured pride and the outrage of supporters who he has deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning,” he said. “What happened here today was an insurrection incited by the president of the United States.”

'Respect democratic processes'

The Washington Post's editorial board called for Trump's immediate removal from office by invoking the 25th Amendment, which allows for the vice president and most of the Cabinet or a body set up by Congress to take this drastic step when a president becomes unable to carry out the duties.

"Responsibility for this act of sedition lies squarely with the president," it said in an editorial, "who has shown that his continued tenure in office poses a grave threat to U.S. democracy. He should be removed."

Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir, president of the U.N. General Assembly headquartered at the world body's complex in New York, said he was "saddened and concerned" at the assault on Congress by Trump supporters hoping to somehow undo the legitimate results of the presidential election.

"The U.S. is one of the world's major democracies," he said. "I believe that peace and respect for democratic processes will prevail in our host country at this critical time."

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres also was "saddened by the events," a statement from his office said. "In such circumstances, it is important that political leaders impress on their followers the need to refrain from violence, as well as to respect democratic processes and the rule of law."

The United Nations’ top human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, said her organization was "deeply troubled" by the attack on the Capitol "which demonstrated clearly the destructive impact of sustained, deliberate distortion of facts, and incitement to violence and hatred by political leaders."

"Allegations of electoral fraud have been invoked to try to undermine the right to political participation. We are encouraged to see that the process has continued in spite of serious attempts to disrupt it," said Bachelet, a former president of Chile who heads the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"We call on leaders from across the political spectrum, including the president of the United States, to disavow false and dangerous narratives, and encourage their supporters to do so as well," she said. "We note with dismay the serious threats and destruction of property faced by media professionals yesterday. We support calls from many quarters for a thorough investigation into Wednesday’s events."